A type of complementary/alternative medicine in which the therapist coaxes the patient into an altered, more suggestible state of mind to try to treat a variety of problems. Hypnotherapy has been studied in many chronic pain conditions, although the quality of the studies has been low. Studies have suggested that hypnotherapy might help treat some types of cancer pain, low back pain, pain from sickle cell anemia, arthritis pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, pain from fibromyalgia and disability-related pain. Some people are more responsive than others to hypnotherapy.

If you are considering a hypnotherapist, make sure he or she is certified and ask where the certification comes from. Many organizations offer certifications in hynotherapy, but their requirements vary considerably, and some are not accredited. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) trains and certifies health-care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and psychologists in the practice of hypnotherapy. To receive certification from ASCH, professionals must have a master’s degree or higher. Likewise, the National Board of Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists offers certification to health-care professionals who have advanced degrees from accredited colleges or universities and are licensed in their state. The Hypnosis Motivation Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education Training and the Distance Education and Training Council, both of which are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Want to learn more about alternative and complementary approaches to treating pain? Read “Acupuncture for Pain,” “Herbs for Pain,” and “Marijuana for Pain.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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